KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Thousands of homeowners in the Kansas City metro area were victims of break-ins in 2012.
The Kansas City Police Department tells us 6,931 homes were burglarized last year. Lawrence reported 635, Overland Park had 410 and Lee's Summit had 234. The thieves didn't just steal valuables, they also took the homeowners' sense of security.
We wanted to know what homeowners could do to protect themselves from being targeted. Along with speaking with police, we sent questionnaires to inmates in Kansas and Missouri who are serving time in prison for burglary. The letters we received back revealed many tips that won't cost you any money to put in place.
"People really need to be careful," Jeffery Russell said. "I'm not the only one out there who is doing that stuff."
RELATED | Read the inmates' full responses http://bit.ly/10El3pK
Jeffrey Russell is one of the inmates who responded. Russell is serving time at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo. Many convicted burglars told us they would break in during the day. Russell said he also broke in at night, whether someone was home or not.
"They would be sitting there asleep. I would go up to their nightstand, grab their purse or wallet, take it to an empty room, empty it, take it back," he said.
Russell added that motion lights would make him think twice about breaking into a home, but only if they were out of reach.
"Raise 'em up. I can't count the times people would have flood lights, and I would just walk up to them and unscrew the bulbs and go about my business," he said.
Which room would they hit first? Almost everyone said the master bedroom, living room or kitchen.
So, what items would they grab first? The majority told us jewelry boxes, guns and cash.
Would they take a weapon? Every one of the inmates said no. If they took anything with them, it would be a tool like a screw driver or crow bar to use to break in.
Did a dog stop them from targeting a home? Almost every single one said no. Over and over, they said family pets -- no matter the breed -- are often friendly. Some of the burglars said if they were unsure about a dog's demeanor, they would bring food to keep the dog preoccupied.
How did they get in the homes? Many said more often than not they didn't have to break anything to get in, because homeowners would leave side doors to the garage unlocked. Burglars also told us sliding glass doors were one of the first places they check, because many times homeowners forgot to keep the door bar in the door. They could easily break the lock and get right in.
William Fitzpatrick is also at Crossroads. He is 10 years into a 30-year sentence for felony commercial burglaries. He never burglarized any homes, but learned a few things from fellow inmates. For instance, if you are going to install a deadbolt lock, buy one that's good quality and made of steel.
"If you're going to buy a deadbolt, why would you pay $8 for a deadbolt that's no more protection than if you didn't have it?" Fitzpatrick said.
Experts say burglars can saw through an inferior lock quite easily.
Fitzpatrick also advises homeowners to be cautious about bragging about expensive purchases.
"You're in a bar and you just start talking about, you know 'I've got an uncle that doesn't use banks. He keeps all his money at home,' and somebody else says 'I know a guy that does that, too,'" he said. "Some people can't help but brag on what they have."
To read the inmates' full responses to our questionnaire, go to http://bit.ly/10El3pK